Staff Leadership

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TARA SCHMITT, HEAD OF SCHOOL

Tara has been working in the nonprofit sector for more than 15 years. She began her nonprofit work as Managing Director of Development at the University of Michigan W.K. Kellogg Eye Center, where she was a member of the leadership team on a $40 million capital campaign. Her passion for Montessori education eventually led her to an administrative role at a Montessori school in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Within a few years she was appointed Head of School for the pre-K through 6th grade school. Five years later, Tara joined Montessori High School at University Circle to help promote and advance that school’s mission. Most recently, she served as a Director of Alumni Relations at Case Western Reserve University.

Tara holds a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, with a minor in Theology. In addition, she has completed several Montessori programs, including the AMI Orientation to Adolescent Studies and the NAMTA Whole School Management Course for Administration in Minneapolis.

She enjoys spending time with her two daughters, exploring the world and aspiring to cook (but usually just baking!).

David B. Berenson, MS, LSW, Director of Counseling

David has worked in School Psychology/Counseling for more than 20 years in non-public and charter school environments. Before that, he was involved in College/University Counseling, Student Life and Residential Life, and as a Wellness/Biofeedback Therapist. He has also held many roles for Cleveland’s Food Co-op.

Licensed as a Social Worker in Ohio, David holds degrees from Miami University (M.S.) and Bradley University (B.A.), with additional post-graduate work at Ashland University and Cleveland State University. He enjoys, table tennis, tennis, softball, yoga, organic gardening and involvement with peace, environmental and social justice organizations, and enjoys spending time with his elementary-age daughter. 

CASSANDRA SPONSELLER, DIRECTOR OF CURRICULUM & GIFTED INSTRUCTION

Cassandra has been working in the field of education for more than 25 years. She began her career as a teacher in the Massillon City School District. Her passion for gifted learners led her to pursue the field of Gifted Education, and she went on to become the district’s Director of Gifted Programs.

Cassandra next joined the Plain Local School District, where she first served as a Building Principal and then as the Director of Teaching and Learning and Director of Gifted Programs. Most recently, she enjoyed getting back into the classroom while teaching freshmen at the University of Akron.

Barbee Thomas, Systems Director

 Barbee brings to Menlo Park Academy a wealth of background in multiple areas, including internal systems and technology. Most recently, she served as the Director of Information Systems at Urban Community School and Saint Ignatius High School.

The native Ohioan has an extensive background in dance, and when she’s not at Menlo, works with several dance and civic organizations.

 

Karen Uthe Semancik, Communications Director

Karen has nearly three decades of communications, marketing and public relations experience in the education, nonprofit, pet and broadcasting industries. Most recently, she served as a reporter for a weekly group of newspapers, and prior to that as Marketing Director for an all-girl, private high school. The native Clevelander also owned a small creative agency for more than a decade.

 After hours, Karen is active in all things pet (from dog therapy to rescue work), as well as biking, running, visiting farmers markets and of course, family. She received a BSJ from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism, with a focus on public relations.